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U.S. keeps World Cup hopes alive with 3-0 win over Costa Rica

The United States Women’s National Team topped Costa Rica 3-0 Monday in Cancun, Mexico to keep its 2011 Women’s World Cup hopes alive.

With the third-place match victory, the U.S. now advances to an home-and-home playoff series with Italy, the fifth-place finisher from Europe.  Leg one will take place Nov. 20 in Italy and the return leg will be Nov. 27 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. to determine the final team going to Germany next summer.  The second leg of the series comes just two days before the World Cup draw.

Monday, Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the 17th minute when her shot deflected to beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz up the middle of the goal.  Abby Wambach doubled the United States’ lead in the 33rd minute with a great one-time finish into the side netting.  Lori Lindsey played Wambach a spectacularly chipped through ball that fell right to the striker’s foot for the finish.

Up 2-0, the U.S. pressed on for a third but almost conceded what would have been a game changing goal in the 49th minute.  A great through ball beat the entire U.S. back line and sent Monica Malvassi in alone against U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.  Malvassi beat Barnhart, but her shot hit the post.

Just 20 seconds after the scare, the United States sealed the game when Wambach finished her second of the game to make it 3-0.

Now, the focus moves on to Italy.  U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage and her team will depart for Italy on Sunday to train for the week prior to the first leg.  The United States finds itself in this unfamiliar position after losing to Mexico 2-1 Friday in the semifinals.  Mexico and Canada, both already qualified for the 2011 Women’s World Cup, will play later Monday for the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Championship.

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